The enigmatic and endlessly inventive Geggy Tah returns with its third and most ambitious outing to date – Into The Oh – a groove-laden journey into an exclamation of heart and soul you won’t soon forget. Possessed of all the signature charms that characterized the band’s first two releases – bewitching melody, eclectic architecture and sheer persistence of vision – Into The Oh is an album of deft songcraft and incisive lyrics, amused by life, haunted by memory and resonant with reflection.
Welcome to Geggy Tah, 2001. The creative chaos and cinematic breadth of Grand Opening and Sacred Cow are still intact, yet refined, steeped in life, seasoned with experience. Into The Oh began to take shape in the wake of Sacred Cow’s runaway hit “Whoever You Are,” a freeway love anthem which gained Geggy Tah a large and loyal following around the world. The band whose debut Rolling Stone said “creates its own aural planet. Positively surreal . . .” has since grown up a bit but left none of its hope and wonder behind.
“We started out to make a party record and ended up making our most personal record yet, ” says lead vocalist and songwriter Tommy Jordan. That result may be owing in part to the fact that within the arc of getting this self-produced project from ground zero to final destination, the band was touched by a dizzying series of life’s changes, from birth and death to marriage and divorce, and then some. Or as Tommy puts it, “Making this record was like going to hell and back, and then realizing I forgot something there. Then, when going back down to get it, forgetting what I forgot.”
Whatever he may have forgotten, Jordan has found his voice here, investing such gems as “Holly Oak,” (A holly oak tree is shading me/Planted by a passerby tossing acorn seeds/’Til one takes hold and grows to be/A shade of love inside a memory of/You and me and that holly oak tree.) and “Space Heater,” (Do you know why we all are here?/Is it to love or live in fear of/All of the bad, all of the bad, I love the bad, I love the bad) with an astonishing warmth and vulnerability.
Elsewhere, his vocals roam comfortably from smoldering and smoky (“Sweat”) to wistful and yearning (“Love Is Alone”) to tongue-twistingly playful (“Aliens Somewhere”). From Curtis Mayfield to the Beatles and beyond, Jordan’s myriad influences serve only to sharpen his sight and enhance his originality. Evident throughout the record is Tommy’s knack for happily wedding the whimsical with the poignant. Forever finding inspiration in the oddest of places, he develops themes of connection and isolation, technology and communication, love and loneliness, penning the majestic Dumb Submarine (If this is the age of communication/How come I feel lost/In isolation?/My brain is a/Dumb submarine/Never descending/Into the ocean) while playing with shortwave radios. Meanwhile, “One Zero,” with its binary melody, personifies the computer as woman to express the seduction and limitation of the digital domain.
Anchored by the formidable musicianship of Greg Kurstin and his phalanx of pianos, clavinets, Wurlitzers, B-3 organs, and Moog synthesizers, Into The Oh is layered with rich aural textures that continually surprise and reward with repeated listenings. Geggy Tah’s signature multi-instrumental approach is in ample evidence once again, yielding a vast array of both conventional and chimerical sounds, among them the otherworldly Theremin excursions of Pamelia Kurstin, who no less eminent an authority than Bob Moog has dubbed “the instrument’s true modern-day maestro.” Added special treats include guest appearances by Laurie Anderson, who drops in for a quick missive scribbled on a “postcard from a strange cloud” in “Aliens Somewhere” and legendary drummer James Gadson (Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, et. al.), who stops by to lend his timeless chops to “Holly Oak,” “Love Is Alone,” and “Special Someone.”
Into The Oh’s most enchanting quality may also be its most ineffable – it is at once reminiscent and futuristic, combining classic idioms with signposts to new space. It is big grooves tinged with blue-eyed soul, R&B ballad mixed with alter-narrative yarn, old school deja vibe and digital-age whimsy. Its irresistible melodies, unlikely images, and idiosyncratic lyrics evoke a landscape far-off and yet strangely familiar, one you may never have visited but wouldn’t mind settling down in for awhile.